Song to the Moon

Four-time Grammy Award winning opera singer Renee Fleming will be singing the national anthem at the Super Bowl this coming weekend. You may remember her singing (yes, singing) David Letterman’s Top Ten list on The Late Show last year. She also appeared at the Obama Inaugural Celebration in 2009 and at Ground Zero after the September 11th attacks. I performed with the Virginia Symphony when Fleming came to Norfolk about ten years ago and …

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Four Points of Relaxation for Violin Playing

Relaxation is the key to all technique. Often when we’re on the spot trying to perform our best, the natural tendency is to tense up. The “fight or flight” instinct is activated. In violin playing, tension blocks the natural springy weight of the bow arm, leading to smaller tone and reduced control. Tension in the left hand causes fingers to push into the fingerboard and then lift too high, leading to loss …

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"Alive Inside" Highlights the Power of Music

The new documentary film, Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory, debuts this week at the annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The film demonstrates the ability of music to awaken otherwise unresponsive Alzheimer’s patients, unlocking distant memories. It follows social worker Dan Cohen’s campaign to bring iPods and music therapy to nursing homes. The film is written, directed and produced by Michael Rossato-Bennett. Learn more about it here and here and keep an …

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Late Beethoven Revelations

The greatest composers serve as visionaries and prophets, giving us a glimpse at a higher reality. Looking back through music history, many composers seem to have experienced a sharpening of this sense of vision in the final years of life. The Ninth and final symphonies of Mahler and Bruckner are filled with mystery, foreboding and spirituality. The first movement of Bruckner’s Ninth is marked “Feierlich“ (Solemn) and ” misterioso.” Schubert’s Ninth Symphony, “The Great”, is a sublime …

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Remembering Claudio Abbado

Renowned Italian conductor Claudio Abbado passed away yesterday at the age of 80. You can read about his life here. The greatest conductors know exactly what they want the music to sound like. Through unwavering conviction, they inspire the musicians of the orchestra to share their vision. Great conductors don’t practice in front of a mirror to put on a show. Every gesture embodies the essence of the piece in an honest …

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New Electronic Sound Worlds

Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers will join the Richmond Symphony in March to perform a brand new violin concerto by Mason Bates. Born in 1977, Bates, who happens to be a Richmond native, is currently composer in residence with the Chicago Symphony. The Violin Concerto, written for Meyers, was recently premiered by the Pittsburgh Symphony. Learn more about the concerto here and here. One of the most interesting aspects of Bates’s music is the way …

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“Hey Nick…Can We Go Home Now?”

That’s pretty much what Franz Joseph Haydn said to his employer, Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, except not in those words. Instead, Haydn found a clever musical way to get his point across. As this article explains, in the summer of 1772 Prince Esterházy decided to extend his vacation at his country palace. The court musicians in Haydn’s orchestra were missing their families back home. Haydn gave the prince a gentle musical nudge. The final movement …

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